Writer’s Workshop in my Classroom (Part Two)

July 30, 2013

Thank you so much for all the positive feedback on my last post. Sometimes it is a bit scary to open up your classroom for all to see, but I learn so much from reading and seeing what works in other classrooms. Hopefully you can find little bits and pieces that work for your class of little learners. As always, if you have more ideas that are successful in your classroom please share them in the comments – that way others can try them out as well!

To see part one, click [HERE!]


The Process:
My writing block is my last block of the day and it is 50 minutes long. 50 minutes solely dedicated to the writing process. This past year, I used the program Being a Writer as a general guide for our block and the outline was this:
10 minutes – mentor text
10 minutes – teacher modeling & shared writing
20 minutes – shared & independent writing
10 minutes – sharing

I stick to this schedule pretty strictly so my students can get used to the routine and also build their stamina. Shared writing is on the schedule twice because at the beginning of the year, I spend more time modeling (the full 10 minutes) and then we go into shared writing for another 10 minutes before the students go back to their seats to write independently. As the year goes on, it shifts a bit and the students end up writing for a longer time independently and we do less shared writing on a daily basis.

Each day has the same set up and I generally work on the same skill all week. Some example skills that would be modeled and practiced all week would be:
-More detailed pictures
-Relating your illustrations to your writing
-Adding more to your story
-Adding dialogue

I thought the easiest way to share what a week in my classroom would look like would be to create a shortened lesson plan with each day mapped out. This weekly lesson is for the skill: adding more detail to your illustration and relating your illustration to your story. I have done this lesson around early October right before we go into personal narratives. You can click on the images below to get the lesson plan for yourself:


As you can see, I also added examples of what I am modeling throughout the lesson. Monday-Friday is included.

Keeping Track (Student Work):
When we are
full into the writing process (drafting, editing, revising, etc) things
can get messy quick with first graders. “I can’t find my paper.” “My
paper is ripped/crumpled/ruined.” You get the picture. My first year I
spent way too much time looking in students desks or backpacks to find
their work, that we didn’t get as much writing done as I would’ve
preferred. I am still learning and finding better ways to organize.
A teacher friend of mine was generous enough to give me a class set of these folders from Really Good Stuff that I used my second year:
are marketed for grades 2-3 and it did take a lot of time for my first
graders to get used to each section of the folder and put them in the
right spots. Even then, their papers were still crumpled from trying to
shove them in each pocket and I made the mistake of using the folders
while we were working on more than one writing piece at a time. If I
taught 2nd, I think I could make it work… but if I used these again in
1st grade I would only have one writing piece in the folder at a time
and I would spend a lot more time modeling when we move a paper from the
editing to the revising pocket and so on.
This past
year I used a different system, but I kept these folders in my writing
corner. I also used the folders with my high group who were able to work on
simultaneous writing pieces at one time. By the end of the year, just over half of
my class had one of these folders in their chair pockets and they loved
to add to their old stories.
The method I used last
year was my most effective method. It worked for me and my students and
we were able to spend less time searching for our work and more time
exact ones are from Target (Dollar Spot of course!) and are in storage,
but the neon ones above would work just fine. I only use three colors
for collecting writing samples: red, yellow, and blue. I tell my
students from the beginning of the year that when they pass in their
paper to a bin they are telling me something. This is what they are
telling me:
Red bin:
“Ms. Moran, my paper is not finished. I am still adding to my writing piece.”
Yellow bin:
“Ms. Moran, I think I am done adding to my paper, but I still need to edit it.”
Blue bin:
“Ms. Moran, I am totally finished with my paper. You can grade it now.”
the end of each day, I can take a quick flip through each bin and see
where my students are in their writing process. When our independent
writing starts, I have my star of the week pass out the papers and we begin!

The bins also let me easily flip through and find an example paper to show on the doc-camera (name covered, of course)! We can do a quick mini-lesson on adding more from a paper that was in the red bin and that student can gather some ideas. From the yellow bin, we can do a quick mini lesson on editing and revising. Or if I want to have someone practice sharing their paper and getting feedback, I will pull a paper from the blue bin!

Some have asked me if there are products or programs that I use when teaching writing and at my old school I was lucky enough to have a lot of freedom to pick and choose what works best for me and my students. With that freedom, I have been able to use bits and pieces of programs like Lucy Calkins, Being a Writer, and Write from the Beginning. I have been able to take the bits and pieces I like from each and do my own thing. I have made a few products that are available on TPT that pretty much get me through the whole year.

**You can see all of my writing units HERE** but I will highlight my favorite ones below:

My Common Core bundle has 3 explicit units (each about a month long) that teach the three main common core writing strands: narratives, informative texts, and opinions.

After I teach those three units, I move onto some more involved writing through reviews, how to books, and even realistic fiction writing:

My Writing Through the Seasons pack is a bundled resource I came out with only a month or two ago and it has tons of narrative, informative, and opinion seasonal writing prompts that will get you through the whole year. Each prompt also comes with graphic organizers.

I use the seasonal prompts when I am not knee-deep in one of my Common Core units and I made the prompts very kid friendly and included a bunch of crafts to create cute bulletin boards throughout the year as well!

Click on each product image above to see more details and previews.

Thank you for sticking with me through these two long posts and I hope I answered some of your questions!

Do you do anything similar for your writing block?!

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  • I am absolutely loving your writing posts Susan! I have struggled with writing forever because my school has never used a writing program to follow or use as a springboard. I love the look of your two writing bundles! Do you feel they would work for grade 2?
    Natalies Nook

    • Hi Natalie! I have had MANY 2nd grade teachers use both of the bundles and they had great reviews. I have looked over the 2nd grade common core standards many times and thankfully, they aren't that different from 1st grade. It helps me to see where I need my kids to be by the end of the year.

  • I'm thinking you should sell your writing lesson plans…I would buy them in a heartbeat!!! Sometimes I feel like I need have someone teaching my so I can teach my kiddos! I really like the turn-in bin idea. Last year I had them use folders with 2 pockets (each had a dot). If they put it behind red, they are still working, if they put it in green they are finished…but I really like your idea better! Thanks again for sharing.

    For the Love of First Grade

    • Haha – you are the best, Lindsay! I am lucky enough to have seen plenty of teachers teach writing lessons and I constantly trying new things in my room to see what works best! I love the 2 folder idea and I am guessing it would work better than my 6 pocket folders above lol

  • I like the idea of turning in paper to the bins. I have always used notebooks during Writer's Workshop, but this year I am cutting them out. It's good to get an idea of what to do with all that loose paper!! Thank you!!

    • Hey Rachel! We have notebooks as well, but we use those for free-write during Daily 5. My kids LOVE to write and they go through journals like crazy!! I find that with the weekly writing prompts, loose paper is better for me. That way at the end of each week, I can choose to grade the paper, send the paper home with notes, or file the paper away for use in a portfolio!

  • I love these ideas! Thank you for sharing. I have been looking for these bins and can not find any. Would you happen to have an order number to give to Target so they can order some more? I would appreciate it.

    Thank you

  • I love you lesson plan for the week. Please please please create more. I would buy them in a heartbeat. Would be awesome to have a resource to flip through and find plans for a mini lesson your students need help with.

  • I love your helpful ideas! What type of paper do the students write on each day. This year is my first year in first grade. We do writer's workshop daily, but now that we are in the second semester I need more lines on a paper so that there stories can continue to grow! 🙂


  • I love the colored bins! I am struggling with my writing block. My writing is scheduled for 40 minutes but realistically is 30-35 minutes. How would you structures writers workshop for this amount of time? I have asked our specialist for suggestions and I never get a response. Thanks!